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Perception is everything, even in clinical research

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Pulse on Study Conduct by Elizabeth Weeks-Rowe

The adage “perception is everything” is especially applicable to clinical research. How an organization is perceived, whether based on individual employee performance or collective employee achievement, will help drive business development. It will influence business retention and serves as the starting ground on which to build a solid reputation. If crafted with care and followed with integrity, the right perception transforms to impression, and ultimately, partnership.

Whether study coordinator, clinical trials manager or CEO, successful researchers are continuously seeking progression—to advance to the next level with the next project, position or promotion. They realize that engagement forges impression, and tailor their performance appropriately. The genesis of perception is the message they deliver. To embody what a recipient is seeking—professionalism, persistence and positivity—is an intentional act. Their message will be closely scrutinized to determine its worth to the partnership, and it must be exceptional to be memorable.

When preparing to present an organizational or personal message for an interview, pre-study qualification visit or performance review, it is easy to get lost in the details and neglect the execution. A presentation should not be crowded with bright lights and dizzy diagrams. It should demonstrate the nucleus of a message that will translate to the audience. The words should captivate until they resonate with the participants. The presentation should flow much like a natural conversation in order to create a connection and make the speaker relatable.

When creative content and delivery intersect, purposeful words become the essential vehicle for the message and ensure successful delivery. When needless effort is placed on the template presentation as opposed to the execution, the message is weak and lost in translation.

I once conducted a pre-study selection visit at a small research site on the West Coast. The study coordinator had partnered with a single physician practice to start her life-long dream of running a research company. The site was being considered for a pivotal phase III study by the sponsor I represented, and would put them on the map if selected. When the study coordinator explained her inspiring back story, I anticipated an engaging presentation of site equipment and enrollment capabilities. Unfortunately, that could not have been further from the truth.

When I arrived at the site, there was a beautiful graphic display accompanying a welcome message. It was impressive, but the overall message was dull and disorganized. The study coordinator presented a sterile slide deck on site information that could have been about any research site in the U.S. It did not give insight into anything that set them apart from the competition. The tour showcased a small office with outdated equipment that lacked calibration and the ability to accommodate study endpoint requirements.
I was not sure if they had read the protocol. They certainly had not prepared their site to meet the study requirements. Their message lacked credibility and did not lend any confidence toward selection. I left the site baffled and disappointed.

Alternatively, a close friend and colleague created a brilliant presentation to give during her interview with several managers. It showcased her unique skill set and helped beat out a number of applicants to land a coveted site recruitment liaison position with a large CRO. Though she had 12 years of phase I oncology site management experience, and although she had worked as a study coordinator for 14 years and had an advanced nursing degree, it still took three months to get an initial telephone interview, and two more months to get invited for a face-to-face interview due to the competitive landscape.

The site liaison position involved an investigative site training element that required strong presentation skills, so the applicant was required to create and present on a health-related topic during the interview. My colleague knew this was her opportunity, and began a full-scale preparation that took many hours and sleepless nights. She decided to speak on a topic that would resonate with the interviewers, as she was sure there was mutual experience in their respective professions. The topic impacted not only patients, but the health practitioners that cared for them: stress, its impact and ways to mitigate effect.

She engaged the interviewers’ participation with enthusiasm and refreshing subject matter. Her slides were a reference, but she reached her audience with words and conviction. She even incorporated a relaxation exercise in which both managers willingly participated.  The presentation was unique, exceptional and my friend was hired immediately.
Your message dictates whether your perception flourishes or fails. Be the subject matter expert of the content you create.  


Elizabeth Blair Weeks-Rowe, LVN, CCRA, has spent nearly 14 years in a variety of clinical research roles including CRA, CRA trainer, CRA manager and clinical research writer. She also is author of the novella Clinical Research Trials and Triumphs. Currently she works in relationship development/study startup in the CRO industry. Email ebwcra@yahoo.com.

This article was reprinted from CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »


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